We know its been a minute since we brought you an episode of TWIB Meets but as veteran emcee, Afu-Ra dropped his 6th studio project, Urban Chemistry, we felt it was the right time to have a quick chat with the emcee and he sure gave us some more than a handful of things to share with you devoted readers. So sit back, relax and check it out below.
For the benefit of anyone who’s been living in an underground bunker for the past several years…who on earth are you?
I am Aaron Osice Phillip, p/k/a Afu-Ra. I’m an artist who uses rap over various types of hip-hop inspired instrumentals to fuse spirituality and intellect to tell my story and offer motivation to my listeners to not let the oppression of society’s ills destroy us.
How did you get started in music, and what drives you to continue?
Growing up in Brooklyn, I was always a fan of music and hip-hop pulled me in. When I was growing up, reciting famous hip-hop songs was a talent that people admired. Later my good friend Jeru was seriously pursuing a record deal after years of being a great rapper. Through the connection of Jeru, Guru and DJ Premier, I got my start in the music business. I would say the love for seeing what I can do with music is the driving force for me to continue making music. I also believe that my passion with music connects me to my fans and many different aspects of life. Because of all this, many doors open to so many unknown, but positive opportunities.
Do you remember the first recording/song you ever made?
Yes! The first song I made was “Whirlwind Through Cities.” It was recorded at D&D Studios in NYC With DJ Premier. This to me is one of the most influential songs of my career as far as how it affects my songwriting to this day. Other songs do also but this song gives me that mark of excellence and simplicity.
If a movie about your life in music was to be made, what interesting/strange moments and stories would you share to make the movie cool?
Wow, I have many. For example, I was hit by a car just after I got my first record deal and almost died. I had lost memory and truthfully it was questionable if I’d ever rap again. The first solo tour I was booked on, the complete tour advances were stolen and I had to suffer that hardship and bounce back. There was a time I was on tour and got robbed by a pickpocket in Barcelona on Las Ramblas. However, there’s also several happy stories, and I’m sure the movie could be very entertaining.
Are there any other interesting facts about you that hardly anyone else knows?
I really love to cook. People often think I’m a vegetarian, but I’m not. I live in the Czech Republic and I’m currently learning to speak Czech. I’ve become an English teacher here, using hip-hop as a tool to bridge cultures. I also have a chronic breathing condition but it never gets in the way of my stage performances.
What is the greatest thing about working in the music industry? And what would you change if you had the opportunity?
I would say through the music industry, I’ve been able to spread my consciousness with the world and without it, I wouldn’t have that chance. Traveling and meeting many different people and connecting with many cultures has given me the chance to connect with people from far-reaching parts of the world. Honestly, through appreciating and respecting different cultures and lifestyles, I’ve found that people generally have more similarities than differences.
And If I could change something about the industry, it would be the ability for corruption to control the industry. I would change the level of sexism and negative imagery that’s shown in the media. And I would change this social media class system that has been developed to use mind control techniques on people.
Looking back, what have been the most important moments in your life so far?
The most important moments are all of them. But I would point that with the bad—like when I almost died in the car accident, losing lots of money, losing friends and family members, or dealing with harsh criticisms—that I’ve always been able to focus on moving forward, accepting my reality, and do the best with what I have. It’s important to always use our mental to push forward.
What have been the biggest highlights?
I would say that my biggest highlight after all these years, is that I’m still going strong with a very good situation with my new album, Urban Chemistry. Of course working with legendary artists and producers, having three record deals, touring the globe, etc. And with every album and every show, I’m still giving people something positive with the music I make.
What has been your biggest challenge…and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge would be not letting my expectations influence my life but letting my actions influence my life. Our actions are the one thing we have the ability to control. It took me years to live by this realization, and I’m all the better for it.
Who are your heroes? Why do they rock your world?
My mom is my hero. I measure a hero by the level of difficulty they must battle to be successful. Growing up my mother raised my older brother and I without our fathers. My mom taught me that what’s mine is mine, and that I was a blessed individual. I would try to continue to stay blessed by doing my best to be a good person. Most of the time we had everything we needed, although at times money was tight. Growing up with my mother I learned that you don’t need money to be happy. Happiness and fortune is a state of mind and the quality of time you share with the people you are closest to. All of the rules and laws you need to follow to lead yourself toward greatness I learned from my mother.
Who have been the coolest, most memorable people you’ve met along the way, and how did they make an impact on your life?
Jeru he impacted my life early on he showed me how to rap in the late ‘80s. Guru was one of the first college graduates I met. He had a huge impact on me how he left his home and came to New York to pursue his rap career. He went on to become famous and achieve greatness.
When you’re sitting on the porch age 97, what would you like to look back on and smile having achieved?
I would want to look back and be happy that I did something to help all humanity. I have a keen interest to develop a tool that involves sound technology that uses people’s consciousness to create a sonic, metaphysical energy that could help the world.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
My most inspirational gig was a Big L Tribute Concert in NYC years ago. I performed “Mental Stamina” with Jeru. It was a real street NYC audience. I hadn’t made a big name for myself yet so I was a little self-conscious about my acceptance. However, the crowd really gave me a big emotional crowd response and I used that as a mark. Never second guess your power when you’re given your shot.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
There was a strange moment once with bumping into Little Richard in a hotel reception in Hollywood. He was very friendly with me as if he knew me, but he didn’t. He asked, “how was your trip sir?” I was coming in from NYC, and had no idea how he knew. I was clueless [laughs]. I greeted him nicely and we made some small talk. As the receptionist called for the next guest, he told me to go ahead of him and he wished me a great stay. His exact words were, “Enjoy your time in Hollywood.” It was cool but real strange at the same time [laughs].
I would say another strange celebrity encounter was meeting Snoop Dogg years ago. Again, acting as if he knew me. He called me nephew and asked how everything was going. He spoke about Jeru and Gang Starr, and asked how the family was. It was truly nice but confusing [laughs].
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
Bob Marley. He’s such a musical icon to me. I have such big respect for him that I feel connected to him spiritually and consciously. For dinner I’d serve a vegetarian and fresh seafood platter, king crab legs, lobster, and perhaps red snapper or kingfish, with his beverage of choice.
What are the greatest songs, albums, books, movies, TV shows, websites you’ve ever come across?
• All songs from Bob Marley
• Books : The I Ching, The Bible, Netu Meter
• YouTube: Esoteric Agenda (1 & 2)
• TV: I don’t watch TV
Name 5 songs (yours excluded) that we would expect to find on your iPod or Music Player
• Bob Marley – “Iron Lion Zion”
• Jay-Z – “D’Evils”
• Special Ed – “I’m the Magnificent”
• Nice & Smooth – “I’m Gonna Make It Real Funky For You”
• Mos Def – “Miss Fat Booty”
What special-hero type skills are you blessed with?
I’m never down. Not that I’m always up or on a mental high, but my consciousness is always on a high point.
Where can everyone reading this interview keep up with your adventures?
Any final thoughts?
I appreciate all the wonder that life has blessed me with, and I’m fortunate to have a lot of good fortune come my way. I look forward to uplifting myself and my family and supporters forever. One love! May we all realize we’re all one family in this vast universe.